Homeowners insurance part of a bigger protection puzzle

- You come home to a tree through the roof, or a busted pipe, or a break-in. That mean's it's time to file a homeowners insurance claim.

Chris Black of Chris Black Insurance gave us some tips on navigating the system to minimize your struggles.

He also has tips for anyone with a homeowners policy, to prevent confusion if you ever do need to file.

The first thing he recommends is to shore up your home.

"Basically what you want to do is assess the damage first and you want to do anything that you possibly can to prevent any future damage from happening," Black said. 

Next, get out your paperwork. When damage happens - you need to understand your policy. And Black says this might be a good idea, whether you are making a claim right now, or not.

"People should be more aware of what's included in your contents," Black says. "You've got folks that think if they have Rolex watches, they're covered and they are, to certain extent, but almost every company has a sub limit for anything like fine arts and jewelry," Black explained.

He says you may need to buy additional coverage for high-end items. And make sure you get enough coverage for your needs. Policies can cover the replacement cost or the actual cash value.

For instance, do you want your TV replaced for what it cost when you bought it, or what comparable model costs today?

Another extra level of coverage you may need is flood insurance. If you're in an area that does not require it, you have to purchase flood coverage separately. 

A basic homeowners insurance policy covers water damage from a busted pipe, for example, but not flooding caused by a storm. As recent storms across the country and in the Bay Area have proved, you don't have to be in a flood zone to have a flood.

Finally, factor in your hurricane deductible.

Insurance agents say people weren't expecting the expense of Hurricane Irma.

Black says the deductible is typically between 2 and 12 percent of your home's value plus its contents, referred to as the total dwelling amount. 

For a home with a $300,000 total dwelling amount, a 2 percent hurricane deductible would be $6,000, right off the top.

So in that case, if someone called up and said they had $2,000 worth of damage, they'd be on the hook for the total amount.

Black says, "It's been 11 years since we had any major storm system and we've got a lot of transplants and I don't think enough people take the time to understand what in their homeowners insurance policy. What is and what is not in it."

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